DER Documentary

Passing Through My Mother-in-law's Village
w/ After Passing

launch preview watch a preview

by Hu Tai-Li
color, 87 min, 1997/2006

Non-profit, K-12, and Individual pricing also available
See pricing information and conditions

The East-West Highway was soon to be built in central Taiwan. It would pass through the village of Liu Ts'o, and many homes and rice paddies would be destroyed. The film maker Hu Tai-Li went back to her mother-in-law's village Liu Ts'o, where she did anthropological research from 1976-78, to preserve some images of life forever.

This film was shot in a natural and intimate climate. During the annual two harvests, various activities in daily life and festivals were presented in the film reflecting the villagers' attitudes towards gods, ghosts, ancestors, women, farmlands, urbanization, industrialization, reclamation and resettlement. The film maker attempted to reveal the Taiwanese way of facing drastic social changes.

In this unusual film—the first Taiwanese documentary to achieve commercial Success—we are treated to a series of affectionate vignettes of life in filmmaker Hu Tai-Li’s mother-in-law’s village before large portions of it are destroyed to make way for the new East-West hightway.

“Intimate family scenes are interwoven with a funeral... a spring festival and celebration of Chinese New Year, offerings to the gods and spirits, rice fields being tilled, small manufacturing factories struggling to get by, the election of the provincial governor, and graves being exhumed and their contents transferred to family urns so that they will be preserved and their descendants blessed. In the final scenes, Tai-Li stands by villagers as they witness their old homes being razed to the ground and take off for their new life in nearby urban developments.” — Barbash/Taylor, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, November/December 1998

In After Passing (11 min, 2006), a follow-up (included on the DVD) of the previous documentary, Hu Tai-li returns to Liu Ts'o Village to screen Passing Through My Mother-in-law's Village for the village residents, and reports to her deceased mother-in-law the changes caused by the newly built expressway. In the wake of its construction, the Liu Ts'o villagers have created a new lifestyle under an overpass, exhibiting human beings' great ability to adapt to the changing environment.

This DVD contains both films and a 20-page essay, "The Emergence of Small-Scale Industry in a Taiwanese Rural Community", by the filmmaker, providing background ethnography of this project.

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Gottingen International Ethnographic Film Festival, Germany 1998
Parnu International Documentary and Anthropological Film Festival, Estonia 1998
Margaret Mead Film Festival, New York 1998
Ethno Filmfest Berlin, Germany 1998
Beeld voor Beeld Festival, Amsterdam 1999
Significant Others: A Celebration of Cinema by Taiwanese Women, the Donnell Library Center, The New York Public Library 2000
The Women Behind the Camera: Celebrating Women Directors in Chinese Cinema, Center for Chinese Studies of the University of Michigan 2002

View more photos on

Series Related films:
Voices of Orchid Island
The Return of Gods and Ancestors: The Five Year Ceremony
Songs of Pasta'ay
Sounds of Love and Sorrow
Encountering Jean Rouch
Stone Dream

Catalog of New Films DER new films catalog cover
Join Our Mailing List
Suport DER
Supported By Massachusetts Cultural Council National Endowment for the Humanities National Endowment for the Arts